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Monday, August 31, 2015

Reader's Diary #1188- Katharine Brush: Birthday Party



We drive familiar stretches sometimes without noting anything, even shocked to realize we drove such a distance with little awareness, feeling liked we'd zoned out in a dangerous and irresponsible way. We could could have run over a child for god sake. But of course, had something darted out across our path, chances are we'd have had the senses and reflexes to have swerved to safety. Furthermore, recounting the story later, we'd probably be able to retrieve most of the details of the drive, even details of the drive before the event happened. Our supposedly inattentive commutes are a myth. We note stuff, we just don't store it away unless it counts.

If you keep that in mind, you may note some subtle foreshadowing in Katharine Brush's "Birthday Party." The narrator begins by describing a couple that had sat across from her at a restaurant. Noting that there was "nothing conspicuous about them, nothing particularly noticeable" she has nonetheless noticed the man's "self-satisfied face, with glasses on it" and the woman being "fadingly pretty, in a big hat."

It's the subtlety in this little contradiction and in the tone-setting details (compare "self-satisfied" with "fadingly pretty") that made me admire this very short story so much. It's so deftly and carefully plotted out that by the end the narrator's thoughts and emotions were my own and I barely noticed it happening.

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